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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Orin Kerr Isn't a Katz Person

At The Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr criticizes commentators who write on Fourth Amendment issues for using puns in the titles of their notes and articles. Specifically, Kerr calls out writers who make puns based on Katz v. United States, which is the foundation of most modern Fourth Amendment doctrine. My favorite title Kerr mentioned was the student noteHerding Katz: GPS Tracking And Society’s Expectations Of Privacy In The 21st Century. The most strained use of the pun, in my opinion, was in the article, It’s Raining Katz and Jones: The Implications of United States v. Jones–A Case of Sound and Fury, which (to my surprise) was written by a professor rather than a student.

Kerr's selection comes from the last few years, but Katz puns are not a new phenomenon. Some quick research on the issue led me to The Uninvited Canine Nose and the Right to Privacy: Some Thoughts on Katz and Dogs, (11 Ga.L.Rev. 75, 89 (1976)). This phenomenon is not limited tot the titles of law reviews -- the California Court of Appeal in People v. Salih, 219 Cal. Rptr. 603 (Cal. App. 1985) pointed out in a footnote that: "Succinctly stated, sniffing dogs are not controlled by Katz."

Kerr's criticism brings to mind a more general way of making legal research more amusing: when you are confronted with a list of titles of law review articles, try guessing by the title alone whether the entry is an article written by a professor, or a comment or note written by a student. After two years of reading many law review articles and comments, I have developed a good eye for this, but the Raining Katz and Jones article proved to me that my professor/student distinguishing ability is still not 100 percent accurate.

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